The November 1 arrival in Cambodia of Air Asia, a Malaysian budget airline carrier,
is expected to increase the number of foreign travelers to the Kingdom, a government
Minister of Tourism Lay Prohas said the daily flights from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
will bring tens of thousands of additional visitors to Cambodia each year.
With one-way tickets to Bangkok priced as low as $25, Air Asia's fares undercut nearly
all other carriers serving Phnom Penh. Prohas said he believes the addition of a
budget carrier is a great benefit to the country's tourism sector.
"We want Phnom Penh to be in the vanguard of the new revolution in travel,"
Prohas said. "With Air Asia's cheaper fare, the promotion of short-duration
but multiple visits to Phnom Penh as a fine dining, great shopping and fabulous entertainment
destination will become feasible."
Air Asia spokesman Kim Hak said the airline was the first in Southeast Asia to make
fares affordable for low-income people.
Air Asia kicked off its new Phnom Penh flights with promotional fares to Kuala Lumpur
($29 one-way) and Bangkok ($25 one-way). The special offer covers departures from
November 1 until March 26, 2006.
An official at a competing airline, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Air
Asia's promotion campaign has not gone unnoticed by its competitors. He said the
new competition for passengers to Phnom Penh from busier regional hubs would result
in lower fares and better choices for backpackers and business people alike.
Mao Has Vannal, Secretary of State at the Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said 14
international airlines now fly out of Cambodia's two international airports, in Phnom
Penh and Siem Reap, with 280 flights a week.
This is an increase of 16 percent compared with 2003. Freight carriers have flown
over 40,000 tons of cargo into Cambodia this year.
Prohas said that just over one million international travelers arrived in Cambodia
during the first nine months of 2005; he estimated that number would rise to 1.4
million by the end of the year.
Prohas said a recent study by the Asian Development Bank suggested that about 60
percent of all travelers to Cambodia are vacationers from other countries.
The study indicated that 80 percent of international travelers consult the internet
before booking a flight; 30 percent of those people generally book tickets online,
Air Asia offers online booking for its flights to destinations across Southeast Asia.